Where do you stand?

The Importance of Stance

We all take a stand in the world. For instance, a golfer takes a certain stance when she is about to hit a ball. A politician takes a stance for or against an issue. A warrior takes a stance when preparing for battle. I take a stance for equality of all people. One’s stance in the world is the way one stands in relation to the world, whether literally or metaphorically. It can be physical, like a body position, or moral/ideological. It can also be an attitude that you assume when you take a physical or ideological position. For example, when I take a proud stance I can adopt the attitude, “I shall not be moved.” I think it’s important to explore our physical and ideological stance to the world because it lends a wisdom and knowledge of ourselves that helps us make clear choices.

When we know our stances, we can make decisions that reflect those stances and are in alignment with our core values.

What is your stance toward the world? How much responsibility do you choose to assume for yourself and for others? While some of this is influenced by our beginnings in life (family of origin), we have a choice about how we shape our current stance. What does that mean? The attitude we take; the position we put ourselves in. sometimes we feel responsible for others’ well-being, sometimes we don’t even feel responsible for our own well-being. I think it makes a difference in how we interact with our environment and the beings around us. Therefore, it’s important to examine what our stance is for ourselves.

There are many dimensions to an attitude or stance. Responsibility is just one aspect, but it is key. Others include safety, nurturance, protection, boundaries, esteem, power and intimacy. I’m sure there are others but that’s what comes to mind now. For ease and space constraints I will focus on one aspect, responsibility.

Responsibility determines how we treat ourselves and our fellow beings on earth. I make a point of saying “beings” because we share the earth with more than just other human beings. We are part of a vast ecosystem that includes plants, animals, water, earth, air, etc. We have an interdependent relationship with all of these entities, whether we choose to acknowledge that or not.

Like most things, responsibility exists on a continuum, and the aspects of it also exist on continua.

Consider just a few:

Responsibility to self-----------------------------------------------------------------------Responsibility to others

Physical responsibility---------------------------------------------------------------------Spiritual responsibility

Responsibility as control------------------------------------------------------------Responsibility as co-existence

Responsibility as nurturance-------------------------------------------------------Responsibility as Domination

Cruelty-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Kindness

Love-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Indifference

Finding a proper balance on these dimensions takes the discipline and humility of honest self-awareness. These “settings” on the continua fluctuate and change due to circumstances, just as our values sometimes do. We can be unkind or cruel to others while being kind to ourselves (one may argue), and the reverse is also true. Consider codependency, a condition in which a person prioritizes others’ comfort and happiness to the exclusion of their own. Unfortunately, this results in resentment and illness in the person who sacrifices so much at his or her own expense. At the other extreme is a narcissist, who cares only for his or her own gain to the exclusion of others’. I believe that sound mental and physical health depend upon determining which stance would be advantageous to all. Finding the dynamic balance between care and responsibility for other people, and caring for oneself can be a lifelong project, but I think it’s one that will be worthwhile.

Here are some questions to help you develop a conscious and health stance:

1. What is my basic stance toward life? What is my stance to those around me? To myself?

2. When am I most comfortable? What conditions make that possible?

3. When am I the healthiest, mentally and/or physically? What does it take to make that happen?

4 What am I responsible for in my own life?

a. Am I comfortable with this responsibility? If not, why not?

b. Do I need to adjust my responsibility to myself? If so, how?

5. What am I responsible for in the lives of others?

a. Does this responsibility seem appropriate? Healthy?

b. Do I need to adjust this responsibility? If so, how?

6. Do my settings on the continua above feel healthy? How would it be to adjust them?

7. What would it take to adjust my stance? What would I need to do to make these adjustments?

It can be scary and exciting to do this inner work, because it takes place at a fundamental level that we don’t access most of the time. But the possibilities are endless. Once we determine that we can change our stances and how we assume responsibility consciously, we are more in charge of our lives than ever before. It may be helpful to get support as you do this work, and a friend, coach, or family member with whom you can be honest and real may be in order. If you need help with this work, you can contact me for support.

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